What is leaky gut?
Our gut lining is a barrier that separates the inside of our bowels from the rest of our body. But did you know that gut lining is only one cell thick? This is important because if it was any thicker, then we wouldn’t be able to absorb nutrients from food. But, the gut lining still has to keep out any unwanted things, namely the billions upon billion of microbes that live in our digestive tract!
Like puzzle pieces, the cells that form our gut barrier are packed tightly together. However, if the spaces between these cells becomes bigger, then unwanted things may seep into the blood and be transported around the body. This is where the term “leaky gut” comes from
The problem with the term leaky gut is that is sounds a lot worse than it is. In reality, it’s very rare for microbes to escape into the blood this way. Otherwise, we’d be very, very poorly with something called sepsis. In leaky gut, the gut lining becomes more permeable to things like toxins from bacteria, rather than the actual bacteria themselves.
What are the causes of leaky gut?
Causes of leaky gut include stress, food intolerances, too much alcohol, and certain medications, such as aspirin. But probably, the most common cause of leaky gut is a tummy bug or imbalance in the gut microbiome. When our gut microbes are out of balance, this triggers inflammation in the gut. The inflammation then damages the bonds that hold our gut lining cells together.
What are the symptoms of leaky gut?
Leaky gut is associated with symptoms of tummy pain and bloating as well as symptoms beyond the gut, including brain fog, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Leaky gut is also associated with atopy (aka allergies), such as asthma and eczema. However, it’s important to remember that leaky gut itself is actually a symptom of something else going wrong like stress, food intolerances, or an intestinal infection.
How do you test for leaky gut?
The most common way to measure leaky gut is with urine! A solution is drank and urine is collected afterwards. The solution contains sugars that our body cannot digest. Therefore, they will only be excreted in your pee if your gut is leaky. Less accurate ways to look for leaky gut are to measure certain biomarkers in the blood, like LPS, a toxin produced by gut bacteria, or zonulin, a protein that regulates leaky gut.
How do you treat leaky gut?
There are some ways to help leaky gut. First, eat lots of soluble fibre from foods like oats, kiwis, carrots, beans and avocados. Soluble fibre helps your gut to produce more mucus, and this mucus coats the wall of your gut like a bacterial sunscreen. Another potential treatment is the amino acid L-glutamine, which has been shown to improve leaky gut in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Probiotics may be helpful too, andwe’ve listed some on our reviews page. Ultimately, the best way to manage leaky gut is to treat the underlying cause. For example, reduce stress, identify food intolerances, and treat any infections.
Ready to dive deeper into the details? Keep reading…